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Bordeaux 2013: ‘Not the most difficult vintage’

The trials of the 2013 vintage were not as great as years such as 1987 or 1991 according to Mouton’s managing director Philippe Dhalluin as he revealed the “likely” composition of the 2013 blend.

Dhalluin was speaking at a tasting organised by the Institute of Masters of Wine to look at the constituent parts of the 2013 vintage as well as a vertical of Mouton from 2011 to 2003.

“I have read a lot that it was a ‘difficult’ year,” he said, “But since 1982 others were more difficult such as the 1987 and 1991.”

He went on to describe the climatic conditions of the year, noting the “huge hydric reserves” left by the winter rains and how the late sunshine in July and August was not enough to completely dry out the soil, leading to less hydric stress for the Cabernet Sauvignons and Francs than they generally need.

Nonetheless, he said it was clear that Cabernet Sauvignon was the “winner” of the year.

The potential composition of 2013 Mouton is 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc – which Dhalluin said had a “salty, mineral” character.

Petit Mouton meanwhile will roughly be 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot.

Although the percentages of Cabernet are high they are not as elevated as the 2011 (90%) or the 2010 (94%), which had the highest ever amount of Cabernet in a Mouton blend.

He also said, stressing that the calculations had not yet been fully made, that Mouton’s grand vin would likely account for 40% of production, which is lower than the 1991 vintage and, he said, “more like a ‘60s vintage size”.

Production of Petit Mouton would go up from around 25% of production to 30% or even 35%.

The 2013 assemblage brought along for the tasting showed no hint of greenness, something remarked upon by the tasters and Dhalluin reported that even he and the winemaking teams at the Rothschild properties had been “surprised” that that was the case.

Apparently only one plot of Cabernet owned by Armailhac, which he described as being very “vigorous”, had shown any green aromas.

Revealingly though, he said that to succeed in 2013 estates needed two things, “the means” and top facilities.

By the means he explained that once the rains caused rot and forced the harvest to begin a couple of days earlier than planned on 30 September, it was vital to pick quickly but not necessarily everything all at once.

Rigorous sorting was also required and on one day in October Mouton was able to field a team of 695 people.

They harvested 25 hectares a day by hand meaning Clerc Milon was harvested in one and a half days.

Mouton’s new winery also allows it to vinify plots separately and control every stage of the ferment.

‘We try to extract the genius of each plot,” said Dhalluin, “it’s like Aladdin with is lamp.

How other wineries without these “means” fare is another question, consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt has already claimed it will be a vintage “of the rich”, suggesting only wealthy châteaux will be able to produce wines of any note.

Briefly touching on the subject of the 2013 en primeurs which have caused some debate and concern this year, Dhalluin confirmed that Mouton intended to support the campaign and was not going to pull out any time soon unlike its fellow first Latour.

“There is no other event in the world where the trade come and focus in Bordeaux for a week,” he said. “We’re not leaving, we will still be in the en primeur system.”

The topic of global warming and rising alcohol levels was raised as well but Dhalluin said that they were, “not an issue.” He said that the Médoc was not feeling the effect of global warming as much as places like Alsace or even the Right Bank.

The Médoc’s climate remained very temperate although humidity levels have risen. He put part of the cause for the generally low alcohol content of Mouton’s wines (2010 at 13.4% is the highest) down to the lack of clay in the soil, pointing out that Clerc Milon’s vineyards are on soil with more clay and are slightly more alcoholic.

On the following page is a rundown of Dhalluin’s brief notes on the Mouton vintages 2011-2004.

2011: “Not spoken about a lot,” said Dhalluin. The year was warm and dry and the earliest harvest in 40 years. He questioned whether it was maturing a little too fast but also as being a “great” Cabernet year.
At the time of tasting the oak was still very dominant and Dhalluin said it was not “en place” but added that he thought there was an “opulence” to the wine and that it was a successful vintage in Bordeaux.
Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 90%, Merlot 7%, Cabernet Franc 3%, abv 13%. Harvest: 12-28 September

2010 & 2009: two “extraordinary” vintages. The 2010 he described as, “strong, powerful, big – masculine wine”, the 2009 as a year when “the stars aligned”. A “mature but not over mature vintage.”
Interestingly the pH levels are not too dissimilar, the 2009 having 3.72, the 2010 3.76. He thought the 2010 was a little closed still.
’10 blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 94%, Merlot 6%, abv 13.5%. Harvest: 29 September – 13 October
’09 blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 88%, Merlot 12%, abv 13%. Harvest: 23 September – 13 October

2008: “Difficult year – changing weather patterns. A late harvest with maturity difficult to reach. Not as complex as ’09 or’10  but we love it.”
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 83%, Merlot 17%, abv 13%. Harvest: 2-15 October

2007: “Small yields, classic style with some smoky aromas which for us is a sign of good maturity.” (NB. Dhalluin said that the teams have noticed that the very best Cabernet plots naturally develop smoky aromas after two or three days. So this is not smothered by oak, the toasting of Mouton’s barrels has been lowered since 2004 to medium).
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 81%, Merlot 19%, abv 13%. Harvest: 26 September – 11 October

2006: “Cool year, perfect for long maturity.” Dhalluin said that the 2006 was a classic of the Mouton style.
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 87%, Merlot 13%, abv 13%. Harvest: 20 September – 5 October

2005: “Exceptional year. Dry but not warm, below average temperatures actually.”
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 85%, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 1%, abv 13%. Harvest: 21 September – 6 October

2004: “Late but much more classical in style like the 2006. Lots of Cabernet Franc.” (NB. The most of the last 10 years.)
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 69%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Franc 13%, Petit Verdot 3%, abv 12.5%. Harvest: 29 September – 15 October (NB. Mouton ripped up its Petit Verdot vines after the 2004 vintage but they were replanted in 2008. They are still too young for the grand vin.)

2003: Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 8%, Petit Verdot 3%, abv 13%. Harvest: 15-26 September

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